Full disclosure: A review copy of Tides was provided by Button Shy.
Back on the Button Shy horse! There are always more Button Shy games in the Button Shy queue, so, excited to get a chance to check more out! Tides was a fairly recent release, so I’ve been looking forward to trying it. Still have a few to try out, and I’m keeping an eye on that Naturopolis thing coming up in the future. So let’s check out Tides!
In Tides, you’re collecting things washing up on the shore and turning them into delightful, hand-crafted items! There’s a lot constantly washing up, so you have a lot to work with! As is the case with most games, you can turn this creating into a little competition. The usual. Grab stuff during low tide and let the creativity move you! Who can create the nicest stuff?
Very little! Choose a player to go first; they get the First Player card. Then, shuffle the deck of cards. Deal five Low Tide side-up:
Deal two cards to each player, High Tide side-up:
Each player choose one to keep and discards the other. Once everyone’s done that, you’re good to start! Keep the deck Low Tide side-up.
A game of Tides is a game of watching the ebb and flow as you collect resources and craft them into something new. Create while the tide is high, and collect while the tide is low! Let’s talk about how that works.
The game is played over a series of Low / High Tide Cycles. The game starts with Low Tide, the first half of the Tide Cycle.
In Low Tide, players each take turns taking one of three possible actions:
- Draw a card into your hand, keeping the Low Tide side facing you;
- Score a set from your hand;
Once each player has taken two actions, the Tide Cycle advances to High Tide. Flip all remaining cards in the center of the play area to High Tide and refill the center to five cards. If there aren’t enough cards left in the deck, shuffle the discard pile and treat that as the new deck.
In High Tide, players each take one of the same three possible actions:
- Draw a card, keeping the High Tide side facing you;
- Score a set from your hand;
After each player takes an action, change back to Low Tide. Flip all the High Tide cards back to Low Tide and refill the center, same as before.
At any point during the game, players have a max hand size of six cards, but may discard cards at any time. Cards cannot be flipped from one side to another, once they’re in a player’s hand.
To score a set, play a High Tide card from your hand. It indicates how many resources need to be spent for points at either High Tide or Low Tide, and how many points you earn for scoring that set. Play the corresponding Low Tide cards as well, so that you’ve met the resource requirements on the card. Then, discard the High Tide card and the Low Tide cards. Write down how many points you scored, so that you can keep track.
Keep playing Tide Cycles until one player has earned at least 50 points. At the conclusion of that Tide Cycle, the player with the most points wins!
Player Count Differences
It’s essentially a two-player game, so, none, effectively. There’s also a solo mode that pits you against an AI (with an option hard mode), if that’s your scene.
- Plan ahead. Tides is a very tight game, and you don’t have a lot of cards that you can keep in your hand, a lot of opportunities to grab scoring cards, or even a lot of opportunities to score. Planning ahead is critical, so you know what you need to grab, when you need to grab it, and how to chain together taking cards and playing cards to maximize your score before your opponent can beat you to 50.
- Also, keep in mind that you really can only take a card or score a card during High Tide; you get one action, and that’s it. This is often a bit lost on folks, but you really either get to score or to take a card during High Tide, and both of those actions are pretty critical to advancing your position in the game. Keep an eye on how many cards you have in your hand; High Tide cards are often dead weight if you don’t have the resources, so it may be better to score during a High Tide just to clear out your hand.
- Try not to waste time discarding unnecessary cards. It can happen, sometimes, if you get blocked by your opponent, but that will really put a damper on your scoring potential if you’re wasting some of your limited actions. You can discard for free, granted, but the opportunity cost of taking a useless card is hard to quantify.
- You’ll eventually need to hit some of the higher-value scoring criteria if you want to win; the smaller ones aren’t always worth using your High Tide turn to score. There’s an opportunity cost to even playing scoring cards, because you have to spend actions to draw them and collect resources and such. If you’re using them inefficiently, then you run a nontrivial risk of just going at a pace that’s too slow to win.
- Scoring during Low Tide may not be all that bad; you can use it to help you get across the 50-point threshold, if you plan correctly. Keep in mind that using it to end the game may be dicey, since your opponent still gets a High Tide phase to try and make one last scoring push, but scoring during Low Tide early in the game may be enough for you to just barely cross the 50-point threshold during a High Tide and end the game.
- Shark teeth are pretty valuable, but they’re also pretty rare. Keep an eye on how common resources are. Knowing the rough resource distribution of the game can help you plan a lot. Thankfully, it’s on the start player card, so keep an eye on that in conjunction with what High Tide cards you’re taking. You can also use this against your opponent, by taking cards that would fulfill scoring criteria they’ve collected, if you want, but make sure you’re actively scoring, and not just blocking your opponent.
- It’s occasionally worth leaving a card in the center so that it will flip over to the side that you need, especially if you’re going first in the next phase. This is where the extra information on the cards can be helpful, though, since you can decide which cards you want to leave in the hopes that their High Tide (or Low Tide) sides will be more useful to you. Just keep in mind that the Low Tide cards don’t tell you the exact distribution of the resources on the High Tide side.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- The art style is pleasant! I find the ocean color gradient very soothing, and the soft edges and sand on everything are very pleasant. It’s a nice game to look at.
- I also like beachy-themed games. Beaches are fun, though I’m neutral-negative about sand. It’s just … hard to wash off. It’s essentially dirt glitter. But in all seriousness, it’s a delightful and engaging theme, and I like that the art style does a good job of representing it.
- I find that the game really nicely encapsulates its theme with both the high and low tide phases and also the gentle ebb and flow of cards going out, coming back, and flipping over. There’s a very circular nature to the cards, since you see a lot of the same ones coming back and getting used and getting discarded and coming back. It’s a nice match between the mechanics and the theme, and it feels like a set of tidal movements. I like that. Then again, I also tend to like games where you move in circles, and this has that going on, as well.
- I like the wallet art and color. It’s a very pleasant color! I just generally like the more brightly-colored wallets. Not just because they’re easier to photograph.
- I used to collect seashells and these kinda beachy things, so I also like this game from a nostalgia standpoint. It just reminds me of childhoods spent on the beach? It’s a pleasant memory and the game appeals to that nostalgia.
- As with all Button Shy games, it’s very portable. Eighteen cards can’t be too hard to transport; I’m really enjoying the variety.
- Also takes very little time to set up. You really just gotta shuffle the cards and you’re basically ready to go.
- Since the cards include a lot of information on their fronts and backs, they can be a bit busy and overload players a bit. It’s something players will just need to get used to, but the cards have a lot going on. It’s kind of the hazard of double-sided, multipurpose cards.
- You kind of have “collect” and “score” cycles, and if you’re behind an opponent after both completing a “score” cycle, you may be stuck unless you have better cards or a better plan. It’s just tough to catch up since the scoring is so tight in this game. Luckily, the game’s pretty short, so just take the L, figure out where you played inefficiently, and go for it again.
- The one thing that does gently interfere with the whole wallet game thing is the necessity of a pen and paper for keeping score. There have been a few Button Shy games that require extra components, and it’s not exactly a problem, but the 50-point threshold is the one thing that kind of grates a bit, as I play.
Overall: 7 / 10
Overall, I think Tides is a pleasant resource management game. As with a few Button Shy games, its big draw is its portability, and how cleverly it uses its limited cards. It can be a bit overwhelming for newer players in their first games, since the cards are stocked with a lot of information on both sides, but once you get the hang of it there’s a lot to enjoy. I find the art style of the game soothing, as well, and it’s fun to try and see how to manage resources with Button Shy’s eighteen-card requirements in play. I think the game does a nice job of earning the name Tides, both in terms of the game’s overall cycles and also in the ebb and flow of cards going into your hand, back out of your hand, and coming back flipped over. Thematically, the game appeals to my nostalgia for my family’s trips to the Outer Banks when I was much younger, though thankfully after a few weeks of keeping this game in a bag it doesn’t smell nearly as bad as the various shells I collected did. Gentle reminder to wash anything you pick up from the ocean, kids. I think the “score on a separate piece of paper” requirement seems like it’s pushing the envelope a bit with the whole wallet game thing, but I think Antinomy required a coin or something a while back, so, gotta stay a bit flexible. If you’re looking for a quick resource management game, you enjoy beachy themes, or you want to add another title to your Button Shy collection, you might enjoy Tides! I thought it was fun.
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